Upsampling 1080i DVD player review - Zenith DVB318 vs HTPC

upscaling dvd player
Using a universal remote control: review by Adrian Biffen, Software For Homes HDTV Home theater set up and review -
using with BenQ PB6200 DLP projector 
with Zenith upscaling 1080i DVD player

by Adrian Biffen 
Systems Administrator
AeroHOST Web Systems
December 1, 2004
  Bulletin: RollerTrol™ Automation Systems is Launched!  
  • We have been busy making and selling roller blinds and projector screens for some time, and we have decided to start selling the components at so others can do the same.
  • Take a look at our online store for tubular motors and other associated products - make your own custom shade or screen size that fits your room perfectly! We also have special motor kits that work with x10 automation systems.
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I was getting frustrated  with my HTPC system for a number of reasons. I didn't have a fast enough machine to improve the picture resolution over a regular DVD, (except for the WinDVD program) I couldn't get the Dolby 5.1 audio to feed through to my decoder sound system (only stereo L+R), and I was getting momentary pauses and glitches while playing a film. 

I particularly wanted the best possible picture I could get, and that included upscaling (or upsampling) - a method of using the existing DVD video data to create extra lines of resolution, which results in a more detailed picture. This is especially beneficial when watching a large 10' screen like mine. Keeping in mind that this process is not true HDTV (the standard DVD format is not a true High Definition format), the results are nevertheless a significant improvement over the usual 480p that a regular DVD player puts out.

I was faced with the decision of having to spend considerably more money to buy a faster HTPC, as well as the possibility of having to spend countless hours trying to make it work properly. I had reached the point where I just wanted to sit down and watch some good movies in high resolution mode, and stop messing around with computers. So, what to do?


This series of articles is designed to help you get through the complicated process of choosing and setting up an HDTV home theater system. It is part of our overall website, which is about the X10 home automation system that uses the A/C wiring in your home - you don't need to run any wires. (for complementary home automation products such as lighting control and motorized blinds and shades, see our home automation DIY kit article) Here's a brief topic summary of these home theater articles, with direct links:
Article# Topic
1 HDTV Definitions and terminology used in home theatre systems
2 HDTV news from Jan 2005 Las Vegas CES show
3 HDTV remote control consolidation issues
4 DLP projector decision: My reasons for purchasing
5 BenQ DLP 6200 review -projector setup process
6 HTPC: using home theater PC for DVD display
7 DVD software player review: watch DVD on your PC
8 Upsampling DVD player vs HTPC - comparison with Zenith DVB 318
9 Sony HDRHC1 Handycam review: widescreen high definition 1080i camcorder
10 Wireless video sender solves the 'extra tv' problem
11 SED Toshiba-Canon HDTV display review - the flat panel HDTV race heats up!
12 Canon SX 50 Realis LCoS projector review - first 3 chip LCoS projector under $5,000
13 Optoma H78DC3 'DarkChip3' DLP projector review - first 'Dark Chip3' DLP projector under $4,000
14 Xbox 360 review: best buy for game play online? - Windows Media Center Extender
15 Play Station 3 vs Xbox 360 - Sony and Microsoft Compete for gaming market
16 SXRD vs SED vs DLP - Sony raises the HDTV bar with Qualia and Grand Wega series
17 LED DLP light engine from Samsung vs SXRD, SED - 1080p resolution arrives
18 HD DVD vs Blu-ray: We review the new Toshiba HD DVD players (HD-XA1 and HD-A1)
19 H.264 AVC: High Definition advanced codec for movie downloads and HDTV Online

It was about that time that I had noticed a new DVD player from Zenith (DVB 318) that had the ability to upscale regular DVD movies to 1080i AND deliver that signal on the component video outputs. This second feature is especially important for the BenQ 6200 series of projectors because they don't have a DVI digital input. They can, however, accept a component video input (YPbPr) running at a resolution of 1080i (roughly double the regular DVD picture resolution of 480p). This player is one of the very few that can do this, using the top notch Faroudja chip for upconversion, and apparently has the best quality output amongst competitors.

upscaling dvd player - Zenith DVB 318

I found it on Ebay for under $200, and I decided to give it a try as I was tired of doling out cash and time on this project and not getting the results I wanted. So, I took the leap of faith and placed my order, hoping this might be the solution for me.

It wasn't long before it arrived at the door, and I opened the box with some trepidation, although I have bought many Zenith products in the past and found them to be of very high quality. I used to service their TV consoles in the early seventies, and developed my appreciation for their manufacturing quality and engineering prowess at that time.


My first impression was that it had a simple, clean appearance and a low profile that allowed it to fit very neatly into the top shelf of my home theater console. Most important, it had the upconversion button right on the front of the unit. Don't get confused by synonymous terms: whether you call it upscaling, upsampling, upconverting, it all ads up to the same thing - the interpolation of existing video information at a lower resolution to create a higher level of detail that simulates HDTV quality. This unit uses the Faroudja chip to do the upscaling.

So I plugged it in, connected it to the component inputs on my projector (the BenQ PB6200 doesn't have digital input), and fired it up. The unit greets you with a friendly "hello" on the unit display, and the video starts up with a Zenith splash screen at the regular 480p resolution, before you insert the DVD. I hit the upconversion button to see what would happen, the projector immediately switched to 720p, and I could see a definite increase in the sharpness of the picture. Holding my breath, I hit the upconversion button again and, lo and behold, the projector snapped into 1080i mode and the screen definition improved once again to what I thought was a very sharp picture indeed.

Here are some close-up screenshots of the 3 resolution steps. Please keep in mind these were shot with a digital camera, compressed into jpeg files, and resized for the net, so you won't actually see what I'm seeing on the screen with my own eyes, but it will give you an idea of the difference nevertheless:

480p dvd screen capture resolution sample 720p upsampled dvd screen capture resolution sample 1080i upscaled dvd screen capture resolution sample

The picture on the left is 480p, the center is the upscaled result at 720p, and the right hand picture is the result of upconversion to 1080i. The difference is especially apparent if you compare the jaggies (arrow) on the angled edge at the left side of the picture.upsampled 1080i resolution display

The BenQ 6200 projector very nicely pops up a little window displaying source information briefly in the corner of the screen every time you change the source input, and there it was: 

Analog YPbPr @ 1920 x 1080 @ 60 Hz

Ok, so now I was getting excited, and I popped my Step Into Liquid DVD into the machine and hit the play button. Would it look good, I thought? Would the full Dolby surround come through?

As the DVD spun up, a crystal clear picture appeared, my Dolby receiver locked into decode mode, and I wasriding Jaws (Peahi) on north shore of Maui watching Laird Hamilton riding inside the curl of a 50 foot wave in perfectly clear, sharp detail, with a kilowatt of 8 channel sound shaking the foundation of my home ... finally!

So that's it folks, we've been enjoying brilliant results ever since, and I feel we've reached an affordable level of performance that will last us for some time, until the new true high definition formats arrive. A few final conclusions are in order here:

-You can save money and time and still get great results with the BenQ/Zenith/rolled screen combination. 
-If you go the HTPC route, get the fastest machine you can afford, and buy from a company that will guarantee the results.

I haven't bothered purchasing an HDTV cable or satellite box because there just isn't enough interesting content available yet. We find that playing DVD is the best way to watch movies on the big screen - definitely the best quality, and it's nice to control when and how many times you watch.

We watch 2 or 3 films a week, and gave up going to the local video store; it's too much hassle. For a monthly fee of around $17.00 you can choose from thousands of movie titles at online stores such as Netflix. The first three available titles you choose get sent to your home, and when one DVD is returned, the next DVD on your list is sent. 

This is the end of this article series for now, but I'll be upgrading when that happens, or when the new HDTV DVD format arrives, so stay tuned. I hope the information was helpful for your own quest; happy viewing to you! (for complementary home automation products such as lighting control and motorized blinds and shades, see our home automation DIY kit article)

*  *  *  *  *  


For the sake of clarity, here are some acronym and terminology definitions relating to the various display technologies, used in the other table below to compare the various screen types:
TLA Three Letter Acronym
HDTV High Definition Television. The highest quality video picture available in Digital TV. In the U.S., the 1080i and 720p resolution formats in a 16:9 aspect ratio are the two acceptable HDTV formats. Regular NTSC analog TV is 480i.
HTPC Home Theater Personal Computer. The use of a PC as a processing and source control platform for a home theater system.
RPTV Rear Projection TV. The type of home theater screen system where the image is projected onto the back of the screen. Can be DLP, LCD, CRT projection technology.
Lumens An ANSI Lumen is a measurement of light radiation or brightness. A 3,000 Lumen projector creates a brighter picture than a 2,000 Lumen unit. The ANSI prefix is a standards designation (American National Standards Institute).
Nits Plasma and LCD manufacturers use this term to define the brightness of their screens. Another term for Nits is Candelas per square meter (Cd/m2). One nit = 0.2919 foot-lambert. Nits includes an area definition, unlike lumens, so you can't simply divide by Watts to establish a Nits/watt spec.
480i 720p 1080p resolution measurement in lines, p for "progressive scan", i for "interlaced scan". Conventional TV (e.g. 480i) is interlaced whereby the screen is scanned twice by alternate lines that are interleaved (interlaced), whereas HDTV (e.g. 720p) can scan all lines sequentially (consecutively or progressively).
DVI HDCP Digital Visual Interface technology with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. Developed by Intel Corporation, HDCP is a specification to protect digital entertainment content through the DVI interface. The HDCP specification provides a transparent method for transmitting and receiving digital entertainment content to DVI-compliant digital displays. Some products, such as set-top boxes and DVD burners will require this connector. Even if you have a HDTV set-top box, if it lacks the DVI, your signal may be degraded.
HDMI High Definition Multimedia Interface. Like DVI, HDMI is another digital interface, and from what we saw at CES 2005, it may become the universal standard. Developed by Sony, Hitachi, Thomson (RCA), Philips, Matsushita (Panasonic), Toshiba and Silicon Image, the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) has emerged as the connection standard for HDTV and the consumer electronics market. HDMI is the first digital interface to combine uncompressed high-definition video, multi-channel audio and intelligent format and command data in a single digital interface.
SACD Super Audio CD uses a new recording technology called Direct Stream Digital. DSD records a one bit digital signal at a sample rate of 2.8 million times per second, 64 times higher than conventional CD's. 
NTSC Existing color TV standard developed in the U.S. in 1953 by the National Television System Committee. NTSC vertical line resolution is 525 lines/frame and the vertical frequency is 60Hz. The NTSC frame rate is 29.97 frames/sec.
CRT Cathode Ray Tube - venerable old style picture tube
PDP Plasma Display Panel, plasma is a physics term for an electrically charged gas
LCD Liquid Crystal Display, same as laptop screens
TFT Thin Film Technology, a type of LCD
DLP Digital Light Processor, a reflective light switch chip developed by TI. Has a very fast response time - no motion lag
TI Texas Instruments Corp., original manufacturer of DMD's and DLP's
DMD Digital Micro-mirror Device - chip for DLP technology by TI
DNIe Digital Natural Image enhancement - chip for optimizing video picture quality, by Samsung (used in their DLP units)
LCoS Liquid Crystal on Silicon, reflective light switch
SXRD projection Silicon X-tal Reflective Display: Sony's incarnation of LCoS technology. Sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel.
SED Surface conduction Electron emitter Display by Toshiba/Canon
FED Field Emission Display: New technology from Sony
OLED Organic Light Emitting Diode display: new technology from Seiko-Epson
D-iLA Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier, LCoS chip developed by JVC
QXGA high screen resolution of 2048 x 1536, attained by D-iLA chip
DCDi Directional Correlation Deinterlacing (a de-interlacing method to eliminate jagged edges (jaggies) along diagonal lines caused by interpolation, developed by Faroudja corp. An important feature to look for, this Emmy® award winning technology was once only available in products costing $20,000 or more, and is now available in numerous products costing well below $2,000
aspect ratio ratio of screen width to height. An aspect ratio of 4:3 is conventional TV and 16:9 is HDTV (and film)
3-2 pulldown a method of film-to-video conversion
twitter and judder   terms describing film conversion related artifacts
anamorphic lens   a special lens that compresses the pixels of a 4:3 screen into a 16:9 format, and allows a projector to use the full brightness of the display, without black bars above and below the image. Must normally be removed for regular 4:3 viewing.
SDE  Screen Door Effect is a term used to refer to the visible pixel structure on a screen.
YADR! Yet Another Dang Remote! A common exclamation heard from people who just bought their third or fourth home audio/video component. And then there are further unmentionable expletives when you find out a component isn't supported, or it's just too complicated to program everything in?? Maybe it's time to read about our experience in the remote control review article.

The following table provides a quick comparison of the display types; "pixelation" refers to the ability to see individual picture elements (pixels) at normal viewing distances (note that all the types below can contribute to the YADR index). Please note that these products are being constantly improved and not all manufacturer's models may be subject to the disadvantages listed below:

CRT conventional
picture tube
Cathode Ray Tube: very sharp and bright, high contrast ratio, good picture view from side, low cost, handles regular analog NTSC channels well, no moving parts heavy and bulky, limited in size to about 36", picture can fade 
CRT projection
low cost, large screens possible, no moving parts heavy and bulky, limited viewing angles, visible raster lines, mis-convergence can be a problem, picture can fade over time 
LCD flat screen panel Liquid Crystal Display: bright, sharp picture, light and compact, can hang on wall, solid state, no moving parts picture can fade over time
LCD projection fairly bright, large screens possible, sharp picture, no moving parts display can fade due to heat damage to organic compounds that some manufacturers use in the LCD, projector bulb can fail
PDP Plasma flat screen panel Plasma Display Panel: bright picture, light and compact, can hang on wall, wide viewing angle, no moving parts, handles fast motion really well expensive, some pixelation, display can burn out.
DLP projection Digital Light Processor: bright, sharp picture, high contrast, no  pixelation, reflective system won't burn out picture element, very fast response time - no motion lag. possible visual "rainbow" artifacts on single chip versions caused by spinning color wheel, projector bulb can fail
LCoS projection Liquid Crystal on Silicon: bright, sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel. projector bulb can fail
SXRD projection Silicon X-tal Reflective Display: Sony's incarnation of LCoS technology. Sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel. projector bulb can fail
SED panel display Surface conduction Electron emitter Display: very bright picture, very high resolution, can hang on wall, very high contrast ratio, can be viewed from any angle, no moving parts, handles fast motion really well expensive at first, not available yet
FED panel display Field Emission Display: New technology from Sony, properties are similar to SED expensive at first, not available yet
OLED panel display Organic Light Emitting Diode display: new technology from Seiko-Epson expensive at first, not available yet


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